Column By: ALEX NIETEN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – MECHANICSBURG, PA – The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars vs. Pennsylvania Posse rivalry is back in a big way this week.
The 61st Champion Racing Oil National Open brings the stars of The Greatest Show on Dirt, plenty of potent Pennsylvanians, and more of the country’s top talent to Mechanicsburg, PA where Williams Grove Speedway awaits.
The historic crown jewel is one of the most coveted crowns in Sprint Car racing. Not only does it hold high prestige in the minds of all within the sport, it also offers a healthy payday. The two nights (September 29-30) conclude with Saturday’s $75,000 to win, 40-lap finale, making it the fourth highest paying event on the World of Outlaws circuit.
With the power of the World of Outlaws, the PA Posse hoping to win for the home state, and a slew of invaders aiming to steal the glory, the 61st edition of the National Open promises to deliver a pair of can’t miss nights of racing.
Let’s look at the weekend’s top storylines:
DONNY’S DOMINANCE: Williams Grove has been extremely kind to Donny Schatz over the years.
Schatz has racked up 21 World of Outlaws checkered flags at the historic facility, ranking second only to Steve Kinser’s whopping tally of 38. While “The King” has Schatz beat in that category, no competitor can equal Schatz’s six National Open titles. The Fargo, ND native has topped the Pennsylvania crown jewel in three different decades (2000s, 2010s, 2020s).
On top of his winning ways, Schatz has been plenty consistent at the “Natty O.” In 24 Feature starts, Schatz has landed on the podium in more than half with 13 top threes. He’s also earned 56 overall podiums at Williams Grove in World of Outlaws competition.
A CHANCE AT HISTORY: Last year, it was Lance Dewease winning a fifth National Open much to the Posse fans’ delight. And this year the Fayetteville, PA native has a historic opportunity ahead of him.
Only Schatz’s six triumphs outrank Dewease’s tally, meaning the man that owns countless Williams Grove records could add another to the list with a win on Saturday to tie Schatz. If he were able to pull it off, he would also become the first since Schatz in 2004-2005 to go back-to-back.
Dewease enters the weekend as the most recent Williams Grove winner, topping his 114th Feature at the half mile this past Friday. That victory came aboard the Macri Motorsports #39M, the car he’ll be piloting this weekend.
GROOVIN’ AT THE GROVE: While his Williams Grove résumé may not be as robust as Schatz or Dewease, David Gravel has to be factored in among the favorites this weekend.
The two-time (2014 & 2017) National Open champion can become only the eighth driver to claim three titles in the coveted event. The Watertown, CT native has won the event with Roth Motorsports and CJB Motorsports, and on Saturday he could make it three victories with three different teams if he takes the Big Game Motorsports #2 to Victory Lane.
This weekend could also prove pivotal for Gravel with the ongoing points battle. He trimmed Brad Sweet’s lead down to 80 last weekend. This week serves as another strong opportunity to make up some ground as Williams Grove is the winningest track on Gravel’s World of Outlaws record. He’s topped eight Features at the Mechanicsburg oval.
LOGAN’S TIME?: Two months ago, in his 57th attempt, Hanover, PA native Logan Schuchart topped a Williams Grove World of Outlaws Feature for the first time. The Shark Racing driver snuck by Brad Sweet coming to the line in a thrilling finish.
With that victory under his belt, Schuchart has his sights on his home state’s most coveted race this weekend as he looks to join his grandfather – Bobby Allen – on the list of winners.
The 30-year-old has made 10 starts in the National Open finale and been banging on the door to Victory Lane. Three times Schuchart has wound up on the podium including a 2021 runner-up. Only the top step of the podium remains for Schuchart to stand atop.
CA IN PA: For many years, Williams wasn’t the most welcoming Pennsylvania track for California invaders. But recently, the “Golden State” drivers have begun to flex their muscle at the unique facility. Californians have claimed half of the most recent 10 World of Outlaws races at Williams Grove including two of three this season.
Grass Valley, CA’s Brad Sweet snagged his first Williams Grove victory last July and then got another earlier this year in May. During the most recent visit, it was Rico Abreu coming out on top. The duo will be in action this weekend with a chance to become the third California-born National Open title.
Also among the recent California success at Williams Grove is Carson Macedo. The Lemoore, CA native topped the 2021 National Open to join Jason Meyers as CA drivers with a win in the event.
BACK IN THE SADDLE: A potent driver-team pairing is expected to pull in the pit area that will attract plenty of attention this weekend.
Former World of Outlaws champion – Daryn Pittman – has partnered with the famed Kreitz Racing team to take on the 61st National Open. The owner of the iconic powder blue #69K enters as the defending team champion after topping the 2022 edition with Lance Dewease.
Pittman got acquainted with the team at last Friday’s local race and brought home a podium finish. Now, Pittman will seek his first National Open title. The Owasso, OK native has been remarkably close with five runner-ups in the crown jewel, most recently in 2019.
POSSE POWER: Along with Dewease going for a record tying win, the PA Posse will have plenty of names joining him looking to make the home fans proud by beating the World of Outlaws.
Brent Marks is a former National Open champion (2019) who could become the 13th driver with multiple titles. The “Myerstown Missile” has already topped four races at “The Grove” in 2023. Marks has been on the podium in five of his last eight Williams Grove starts with the World of Outlaws.
Danny Dietrich is another Posse representative with a National Open victory (2016) to his credit. Dietrich ranks 18th on Williams Grove’s all-time win list with 29 triumphs, most recently coming out on top of an Aug. 18 local show.
Freddie Rahmer is always a name to watch in Pennsylvania and could join his father – Fred Rahmer – on the list of winners this week. Two of Rahmer’s nation leading 17 victories in 2023 have occurred at Williams Grove.
This trio will be joined by many more Pennsylvania natives in the hunt for National Open glory.